Maya Angelou wrote, “I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.”
This was the reading I chose to close a recent class at Brook Road Academy. As so often is the case, the reading chosen was as much for myself as for my students. Lately, there has been a lot of decision-making happening after a period of calm. Jobs have been changing, classes shifting, and I find myself embarking on a new venture: Picking up the Brook Road Academy outreach from my dear friend Becky Eschenroeder. I am so grateful for the opportunity, and beyond honored to be able to work with such a cool group of teens. However, I was also a bit nervous: How am I to embody the role held by a teacher as beloved as she?
Her answer, sage and simple: “My dear, we do not wear shoes.” Becky reminded me that it’s not hard to remember what it was like to be a teen: You are still that young person inside. It is true: It feels like yesterday I was getting ready to make the leap from high school out into the world. The problems and stressors I had then are not that much different now. My teenage years were the years I started my journey into my yoga practice; these formative years are when humans can make a beneficial coping strategy, like yoga, a habit. How amazing is it that Brook Road Academy, through the cooperation of teacher Ben Walters and Project Yoga Richmond, provides this?
On May 20th, Becky and I co-taught the final class of the school year. Students brought a giant, colorful card, gifts (including a necklace I refuse to take off), and a huge turnout. Even the sun showed up for the occasion. Becky led us through a vinyasa sequence, with students calling out Sanskrit names and playfully moving through their practice. Halfway through, Becky turned to me and whispered, “You’ve got this now.” Even though that was a queue for this specific class, it was also for a passing of this outreach opportunity. And now: I’ve got this.
This summer, through PYR, I’ll be attending the Kripalu Institute’s Yoga in the Schools program. I know I’ll be gaining a lot of technical knowledge there, and I am so excited to do it. But nothing will replace the boost of confidence and love I got from Becky and the students that day.
Being given the chance to work with PYR and the fantastic crew at Brook Road Academy, I find it fitting to close with a continuation of Maya’s wisdom: “I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
I am grateful for all my students, my PYR family, and especially Brook Road Academy, for making me feel loved. I hope I can do the same in return.